Thursday, December 28, 2023

Dynamite's Tarzan


 The latest Tarzan comic series, "Lord of the Jungle" (same exact title as Dynamite's previous Tarzan series, also short-lived), was intended to be ongoing, but was cancelled after a mere six issue run. Some Burroughs fans seemed to applaud this, but for the most part, I just didn't see it. I bought every issue though, mostly for the art, which, BTW, was very promising. It was written by Dan Jurgens, who had been a Warlord artist back in the day, following Mike Grell's departure. That, too, seemed promising. 

   The series starts out in the 1950s, with an aging Tarzan pursuing some villains on a boat. Now, at first I didn't quite recall what was wrong with this, even though I don't ever recall seeing an old Tarzan before. I first thought of Phillip Jose' Farmer's Tarzan stories where he is immortal, but that is not canon. Then I remembered "Tarzan's Quest", and the Kuviro seeds, which obviously could not have happened according to this series. 

   The series than jumps back to Tarzan's youth, and essentially re-tells Tarzan's origin, which has been done many times before. It follows the story faithfully enough until the death of Kala, who is killed by white rhino poachers (what happened to Kulonga?). These turn out to be the same villains Tarzan is pursuing in his old age. These men are also treasure-seekers, and the story involves Tarzan finding and restoring a sacred artifact to its tribe. 

   The art by Benito Gallego, is intentionally reminiscent of Buscema and is quite good. The covers are by Gary Frank and other artists, also very good. Two of the later issues sport covers suggestive of ERB's short story "The Nightmare", in which a young Tarzan battles strange creatures that are the product of hallucenigenic mushrooms. There is one with a huge serpent, another with an eagle-like giant bird. But they don't adapt "The Nightmare," nor is there anything similar. 

   What I was expecting and hoping for was all-new Tarzan stories, like the ones currently being done by the Tarzan online comics strip, which were indeed all-new, just as advertised, and took Tarzan to an ancient Greek/Trojan colony, returned him to Pal-ul-don, and then sent him to the future H. G. Wells' Morlocks. 

   The Dynamite series did nothing of the sort, even though, curiously, it, too, was endorsed by the ERB Society  and featured Gallego as an artist. What they did was retell Tarzan's origin once again, but altered it so that it no longer fit the ERB canon. Part of it did end up being a new tale from Tarzan's (noncanonical) youth, which was just okay. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Feathered Pterosaurs?

  The alternate cover I got the other day, for one of the "Zorro in the Land That Time Forgot" issues, shows him fighting  pterosaurs that look like dimorphodon at first blush, but appear to be feathered!

   Were there feathered pterosaurs, and is there relation of the feathers of theropod bird ancestors and the fur-like structures of pterosaurs? Maybe pterosaurs are not as distant from dinosaurs (and true birds) as once thought. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Creating a Fantasy Hero by Lin Carter


One huge mystery surrounding Lin Carter's Jandar of Callisto books was why, in an article by him in the second issue of Savage Tales featuring Ka-Zar in the early seventies, it was announced that "Lin Cater's Jandar of Callisto will soon be featured in Marvel's upcoming science fiction magazine Worlds Unknown" There was a comic book called that, and I searched, but never found an issues with Jandar. There was also a black and white mag called Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, also Marvel, but they never did Jandar either. My guess is that they planned such a series, but for some reason it never materialized. Similar to how DC announced that Tarzan the Terrible would follow their adaptation of Tarzan the Untamed, but it never happened, and DC cancelled Tarzan shortly after that. 

Above is the only piece of comic art known to feature Jandar, as he battles a Yahoon arthrapod. 

Anyway, this is the article by LC where he gives the secrets of Jandar, and how he crafted all the story elements to parallel ERB. No, there was never a well in Cambodia where he got the manuscripts. 

Click on each pic to blow it up. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Bruce Jones" Tarzan: the J H Rosny Connection

I already discussed this same tale years ago, in the post on Tarzan of the comics. But what I almost didn't think of , surprisingly, was how similar the concept behind Jones' particular story arc in the 90s Dark Horse is to Rosny's Ironcastle. When a pterosaur-like flying beast crashes a plane, the pilot (Paul D-Arnot? I really can't recall), says the was nothing like his experience, and asked if it could be an escapee from Pal-ul-don. Tarzan replies that they are far from the lost land, and that "this isn't thipdar flesh" (using the Pellucidar term for pterodactyl). I'm tempted to discuss here how the legendary Kongomatu might have come from a lost land, but never mind. So what is it? 
Other beasts that indeed resemble dinosaurs, pterosaurs, or like nothing on earth are starting to pop up locally, in the modern Congo, and no one seems to know why.
Save perhaps the mysterious girl named Kita who claims she hails from one of Africa's lost cities. Tarzan at first believes her to be lying, having seen the Cities of Fala for himself, and knows them to be in ruin. 

What they find though are the gleaming towers of a thriving civilization! Kita was telling the truth after all. After captures, escapes, and battles with mutants beasts, including a multilegged lioness and giant spider, they discover the truth: that Tarzan himself brought the spores of the Tara plant back from Barsoom. On its native world the tara plant was part of the Martian ecosystem: "The tara was eaten by the thoat, which was eaten by the banth, from whose droppings emerged again the tara." But on earth the tara has grown unchecked, having infected the local plant life, and altered the DNA of earth animals; some of them similar to those of the tara's home planet, such as the six-legged lioness. It's also revived Fala's ancient inhabitants, and allowed them to greatly augment their technology, possibly making Fala capable of conquering the world!

An alien spore affecting and taking over a foreign ecosystem, and mutating the flora and fauna.

Did this core concept originate with Rosny's Ironcastle, or is it just coincidence? 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Time Pockets in Tarzan's Africa?

 There are two Russ Manning story arcs in the Sunday strips that feature prehistoric creatures that take place in neither Pal-ul-don nor Pellucidar. 

  One has a villainous British officer kidnap Jane and retreat to a remote marshland with stifling heat far from any outpost or native village, thinking Tarzan will never find them. Jane and her captors are astonished to encounter a living brontosaurus, and then a mosasaur!

   Jane has no idea what the dinosaurs are doing in this part of Africa, far from the lost land of Pal-ul-don!

  The tylosaurus, crazed with hunger attacks the boat, devours several men, and Jane's captors are about to feed her to the beast in order to save themselves, when Tarzan shows up!

The mystery of the dinosaurs' presence, however, is never resolved. 

We just go into another story arc wherein Korak visits a lost civilization of kraken-worshipers, and another beautiful doomed female. Korak seems to be cursed with bringing doom on every girl he encounters, but that's a whole other topic. 

What are dinosaurs doing in Tarzan's Africa far from any lost world? 

Manning already established that Pal-ul-don (or at least his take on it in this timeline), exists in a sort of "time bubble" that allowed the prehistoric races and fauna to survive. Tarzan journeys back in time, perhaps to the mid-Cenozoic, when possibly a land-bridge or connecting continent (I've speculated), existed between Africa and South America. 

Later on, Manning suggests that other such time-bubbles exists, as the time when he, Jane, Korak and some friends attempt to exit Pal-ul-don on a sail-barge over what looks like part of the Sahara (it doesn't appear to be that great thorn desert). When they become separated in a sand storm, Tarzan stumbles across a war party of ancient Egyptian solider, as realizes that "the jungle is not the only place that harbors doorways through time". Afterward, of course, the story of the Stone Pharoah unfolds.

The other Manning tale to feature prehistoric beasts is the "Mammoth Amazons," in which Korak encounters a civilization of amazon warrior women who ride wooly mammoths. How did the giant beasts get there, mammoths being native to Eurasia, never Africa (Though Korak did encounter a mammoth, which he named Trompor,  once before in the Gold-Key comics, high in Pal-ul-don's mountain ranges, and also drawn by Manning.)

By the way, Korak, mammoths ARE elephants, just not like the ones native to Africa. 

Perhaps then, this is the explanation of why so many lost cities and realms exist in ERB's Africa. It was perhaps Manning's way of making it seem more credible that so many lost civilizations and a valley full of prehistoric men and beasts could remain undiscovered in the modern world.

What what is the reason for this? And what of the dinosaurs that appeared so unexpectedly? The tylosaurus seemed starving, so could it have come out of a time portal and was lost in the modern world? 

I postulated in a fic once, that perhaps all the lost lands of ERB's Africa were connected, perhaps by an alien intelligance, something like Farmer's crystal tree of time.

But again, if that's true of ERB's Africa, what about that even huger continent, Asia? Burroughs only had one story set there, the Jungle Girl, better known as the Land of Hidden Men

It's almost without a doubt that, had ERB set more stories in Asia, many more hidden realms would be uncovered. The there is the lost Viking colony Tarzan finds in North America in the non-canonical Tarzan on the Pricepice. So, no this cannot be a phenomena confined to Africa alone. And then there is the lost Mayan colony in Tarzan and the Castaways, the feudal Japanese culture in The Mucker. There is also all those wired lost realms Korak stumbled upon in his DC comic, while he wondered the earth searching for Merium. That deserves another post, though, as the authors even suggest that Greek goods were real and somehow in control of Korak's fate, and even the inclusion of Circe!

Some More Thoughts Regarding Tarzan's Most Recent Pal-ul-don Adventure (More On Pal-ul-don's Evolution)


I left off discussing how in the current online Tarzan adventure, Tarzan does encounter any other other large dinosaur species other than than the gryf. The Manning strips, which I grew up with, had a much great diversity of dinosaurs and giant mammals. 

I believe this is to keep the strip as true to the original as possible, and I doubt there will be any additional dinosaur species (save perhaps if they venture into the swamp region?)

I left off saying that ERB suggested there was a great profusion of unique wildlife in Pal-ul-don, some of the species ancestral forms of African wildlife, others unique strains evolved in islolation. The ja, or spotted lions might have been either. The authors introduce one other such species, a erthystic or red hyena. There might have been beast's like calicotheres and ancient giraffids among others. Who knows?  There is actually a profusion of "living fossils" and unique evolved wildlife here. Pal-ul-don would be a paleontologist's dream come true were it real.

However, what appears lacking as creatures as huge and dramatic as the gryf. The other wildlife would be of interest mainly to experts. 

The ja, jato, and gryf appear to be the only dangerous creatures inhabiting the land. That seems to rule out the other huge, meat-eating beasts that make travel in Caspak or Pellucidar a moment to moment hazard. Where are the huge flying reptiles that are a constant menace in those other lost lands? They don't appear to be native to Pal-ul-don, in spite of the Manning strips, and even the recent novel. Pterosaurs are flying creatures, by the way, and could easily fly over the barrier swamp (perhaps a layer of thick mist might keep winged reptiles from spreading throughout the rest of Africa?).

There was one other dinosaur and/or prehistoric reptile species in the canonical tale, the unidentified swamp saurian, which I've speculated elsewhere sounds very like s suchamimus or baryonyx. And what might have titantic reptilian monsters glimpsed by Tarzan in the swamp (gryfs, swamp saurians, or something else?). Other creatures like possibly a dwarf brontosaurus, as I've read speculated, could also live on there. 

The gryf, however, seems to be the only surviving dinosaur extant on the Pal-ul-don mainland. It is Pal-ul-don's most formidable creature, seeming to rule out similarly spectacular beasts, such as brontosaurus, stegosaurus, and T-rex. 

This a relatively small, isolated valley. In this case, Burroughs offers an example of what a real-life lost world might really be like. It is simply not big enough to hold the profusion of giant fauna found in typical lost realms, such as A C Doyle's Maple White Land, or ERB's own Caspak. Even a large island, could not possibly contain Caspak's teeming, Pellucidar like richness. And the primeval fauna that does survive has been altered over the millinea.

Manning's Pal-ul-don strips, of course, certainly do contain Pellucidar-like richness. Even the the stories (which I intend to actually chronicle here when I get the time!) seem more like Pellucidar tales, in that they involve a series of perils and escapes, while Manning's Pellucidar strips seem to be more about political intrigue, which is a bit more similar to Tarzan the Terrible

Then there are the old Dell comic Tarzans, that took Tarzan back to Pal-ul-don thoughout its long run. This seems a far different take on the lost land, and there are many Pellucidaran elements, including the names "thipdar" and "dyal". Just looking at the Dell version, and taking it as a separate timeline, it is posible that THIS version of Pal-ul-don actually connects with Pellucidar, and perhaps the humanoid inhabitants are Pellucidaran colonists. It is, then a portion of Pellucidaran existing on the surface. After all, they appear to lack tails, even though the Ho-don and A-lur are often shown. This might explain the Pellucidaran terms, and perhaps the similarity of the words "gryf" and "gyor" and "garth" and"zarith."

But back to the canonical ERB "universe." 

There is one passage in the novel that suggests cave-painting, depicting what appear to giant saurian-like creatures (correct me if I've wrong about this!). 

Perhaps, then, in the distant past, other giant Mesozoic survivors did inhabit the land. I've speculated in "Evolution in Pal-ul-don", that the lost land as depicted by Manning, which is supposed to exist in a sort of time bubble, and might be continent size, perhaps connecting Africa with South America sometime after the Cretaceous, after most of the dinosaurs died. 

Perhaps, giant dinosaurs and mammals slowly met final extinction as the land shrank, until only the gryf remained, taking its place as the valley's top predator and herbivore. Becoming omnivorous would most certainly be an advantage, since it was less specialize and able to survive on a wide diet of food. 

If large theropods such as the garth existed, they were less adaptable and died out. The Burroughs

Bestiary by David day, however, suggest something more bizarre, however: that the herbivorous ancestors of the gryf might have mated with tyrannosaurs to produce the carnivorous nightmares encountered by Tarzan! It is not feasible, of course, that a ceratopsian could be genetically compatible with a theropod. But, again, this is ERB's universe where stegosaurs can utilize their plates to glide, so who knows? We already know that the jato survived in the same manner by mixing with lions!

There is one other thing that Manning seems to have forgotten in his own stories, which doe not necessarily rule out other giant beasts in Pal-ul-don, but does suggest it. In both the Manning strips and ERB's novel, the Ho-don revere the gryf as almost a creature of supernatural, as it features prominantly in their relgious art. If other similarly spectacular monsters abound, then this seems far less feasible. Perhaps the Ho-don retain ancestral memories of such beasts, but that is long forgotten. If the gryf is the sole surviving mesozoic monster, than the of the Ho-don awe is more feasible, as is the role of the gryf in Ho-don culture. 

Then there is the fact that the Ho-don also use the gryfs as war-beasts, while in the novel, they seem astonished that Tarzan is able to ride on one's back! Somehow, they never learned from the Tor-o-don. Perhaps the Ho-don learned to domesticate the gryf following Tarzan's example, but Manning never explains this. 

The author of Tarzan's Return to Pal-ul-don suggests that a future sequel might also lead Tarzan to other corners of the lost land, where more giant survivors might lurk. But that will need to wait. 

Now on a personal basis, out of the three discussed versions of the lost land, does anyone have a "favorite"?

For me, I'd have to say Manning's, hands down. 

The Dell version's relatively poor artwork, and the fact that they borrow from the rest of Tarzan's Africa plus Pellucidar rule it out. Plus, no tails. The tailed inhabitants are what makes Pal-ul-don unique among lost lands. It's just not Pal-ul-don without the monkey men. 

And the canonical version, as innovative and realistic as it is, the answer is obvious. You just don't get the diversity of large prehistoric fauna.

Manning gives us the best of both worlds. 

J H Rosny's Ironcastle--an Atypical Lost World


I just finished re-reading J. H. Rosny's Ironcastle. Rosny is called often the ERB of France, and actually he co-wrote his novels, or some of them, with his brother. I have an old paperback edition, though supposedly a new edition is is soon to be printed that shows more of Roy Krenkel's great art on the cover. The interior illos are all by Krenkel as well, and Phillip Jose Farmer both translated and apparently edited it some, though I have little idea just how much change he may have made. Rosny also authored Quest for Fire and The Great Cat, both novels of cavemen during the Plesticene, and since I haven't read those, I don't know much of his writing save for this, which may in fact contain too much of Farmer's embellishments. 

  Not that that doesn't make a great read. One embellishment that seems almost certain is that Farmer throws in reference to Doc Savage and AC Doyle's Maple White Land. The lost world that Ironcastle and his friends discover in the dark heart of Africa contains no dinosaurs, and in general, no actual prehistoric beasts, save for maybe a huge cave-lion that may be a Plesticene relic. 

There are a species of proto humans called "stunted men" who kidnap the obligatory love interest Murial at one point. There is also one dinosaur relation, a possibly prehistoric crocodilian beast, that is both warm-blooded and furred, with a third eye in the middle of his forehead. The cluster of photo-receptive cells possessed by some lizards and amphibians has developed into an actual eye in this species. The same has happened with a large three-eyed toad, which is also covered in hair (warm-blooded as well?) 

Other creatures inhabiting the land include small birds with fantastic hued, jewel-like colors, preyed on by huge flies, lion-sized leopards with blue-spots, giant, erythistic lions the shade of a red fox, purple and pink hippos four-tusked elephants (gomphotherium, or something else?), among many others. It's a fantastic managerie Rosny gives us. There are also scaled, green-furred sentient beings with cylindric heads. Most of the vegetation is a weird blue or purple, and seems in some strange symbiotic relation with the region's incredible wildlife. 

All this is, as the blurb informs us, this section of Africa has been transformed by an intelligence from the stars. They eventually discover the remnants of a crashed spacecraft, the alien pilot intact, although this being seems to have been neither animal nor plant, but something in between, and the region's weird plant life has "grown" from the deceased alien, and turn, has transformed the native fauna into the fantastic forms that now inhabit the land. Unfortunately, it appears the root system is now dying, which will eventually spell the animal life that depend on it as well. The hidden world may not survive but for a few more months. or perhaps it will revert back into "normal" African species.

It's an engrossing story, and the whole concept of the alien plant that creates and sustains the lost world seems distinctly Farmer-esque. He may be the one who came up with the concept, though I'm unfamiliar with Rosny's other writing. The alien system sort of recalled the "crystal tree of time" in Farmer's Tarzan pastiche The Dark Heart of Time

And it kind of begs the question: if there is indeed overlap between ERB's world and this one, could or did Tarzan ever visit Ironcastle's lost realm? Maybe not that we know of. But there was a lost valley that Tarzan discovered back in DC's Tarzan 235, drawn by Kubert, "The Magic Herb." This world also looks like someplace transformed by something from outer space as well. Tarzan battles a creature that resembles one of the giant creodont predators of the Miocene, only with saber-teeth, and then the horned serpent-like beast. And then there are the lizard-like (warm-blooded?) inhabitants. Hmmmm...